I'd Rather Be a DJ Than A Rockstar Developer

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With all this talk of rockstar programmers, I like Ron Evan’s take when he says, “I Would Rather Be A Jazz Programmer”.

Here are some differences, as I see them:


  • One bit hit song, then disappears\
  • Embarrass themselves as they age\
  • Claims they wrote the song\
  • Keeps trying to get back that sound they used to have\
  • Gets back together with the old band after unsuccessful solo careers\
  • Wants to marry a model and have a movie cameo\
  • Won’t play without a contract and advance payment


  • One bit hit, and they become an influence\
  • Get cooler with age\
  • Claims the song is just a cool arrangement of a standard\
  • Keeps trying to produce a new sound\
  • Records with a variety of musicians over time\
  • Wants to become a professor at Berkeley School of Music\
  • Jams on the street corner just because they feel like it

While I like some rock bands such as U2 and I like some Jazz, my favorite music falls under the umbrella of Electronica including, but not limited to, BreakBeat, Trance, House, Trip-Hop, Electro, Jungle and Downtempo.

It occurred to me that I would rather be a DJ programmer than any of these.


Here are some reasons why:

  • Never suffer from the Not Invented Here syndrome.
  • Are masters of re-use, to a fault.
  • The best do produce new music from scratch when they see a specific need that isn’t being addressed by already existing music.
  • Are great at mash-ups and integrating parts of multiple songs to create a new and more interesting song, aka a remix.
  • The best get paid a lot for a couple of hours of easy work. How hard is it to spin some vinyl, CDs, or audio files from a laptop as some do now?

At the very least, I would like to be paid like a DJ. Not the guy at your local dive, I’m talking about the big names who get paid $50K for three hours of work. What kind of music reflects your coding style?

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11 responses

  1. Avatar for Brandon
    Brandon May 30th, 2007

    What about an Old School Punk Developer.

    * Generates music not based on whether the mass likes it or not.
    * Usually develops an underground following with the occasional mainstreamers.
    * Keeps on going even though most think they have disapeared.

  2. Avatar for Tina Marie
    Tina Marie May 30th, 2007

    I don't believe that DJs are paid $50K for 3 hours of work. They're really being paid for 3 hours of visible work, plus the countless hours of background research time, the cost of their media, and so on. I suspect that like software managers, DJ managers don't recognize this background time as "productive" and overbook their stars.

  3. Avatar for Luke
    Luke May 30th, 2007

    LOL! I love these! How about POP-star developer:
    * doesn't play any instruments
    * doesn't write his own music or lyrics
    * can't really sing
    * can't even mix music
    * convinces a rock-star to do the music
    * convinces a DJ to mix it
    * records a lame heavily edited, and mixed voice track
    * claims all the credit for the song
    * can't perform live, unless he is lip-syncing
    Heh, I worked with these kinds of people - big ego, big salary and absolutely no skill. ;)

  4. Avatar for Steven Harman
    Steven Harman May 30th, 2007

    So... who are the Wayne Newton's of the software industry?

  5. Avatar for JMC
    JMC May 31st, 2007

    To be completely honest, I think everyone is taking this developer/musician analogy far too seriously. I realize that this article is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but c'mon...

  6. Avatar for Ron Evans
    Ron Evans May 31st, 2007

    You know, I thought it was all just a fun metaphor, until someone posted a link to this old wiki entry as a comment to my original post:
    And just for the record, I like electronica very much as well...

  7. Avatar for spreiter301@gmail.com
    spreiter301@gmail.com May 31st, 2007

    I work for one of the most popular night clubs here in switzerland. And I can tell you that I also like to be a Star-DJ (Like David Morales, Bob Sinclair, Louie Vega etc.) programmer.
    You can bitch around all the time and get paid 30-50K (+ hotel, flight and crew is also paid) for 2-3 hours of playing. How cool is that?

  8. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked May 31st, 2007

    @Tina - The $50K payout isn't from the managers. It's the price that a club will pay for a three hour session. It's not unlike a software contractor who can charge $150/hr. Sure, it took a lot of dedication to hone your craft to be able to charge that much money. But $13K an hour? I'll take that any day.
    @JMC - Awww c'mon. Don't rain on our parade. This is all in good fun, tongue firmly in cheek.
    @Ron - a very fun metaphor. I think improvisation is the attribute I like in the metaphor, which is something that both great jazz musicians and DJs do.

  9. Avatar for Scott
    Scott June 1st, 2007

    I'm more of a one-man-polka-band developer.

  10. Avatar for mike h
    mike h June 4th, 2007

    Electro Psychocountry Garage Revival

  11. Avatar for StevenHarman.net
    StevenHarman.net November 19th, 2007

    I'm Going, Going, Gone Quick!